Monday, March 10, 2008

Is the Mass a prayer?

Okay, after all that stuff about the "directionality" of the Eucharist (ta, PW), I wonder if we have overlooked a simple question: Is the Mass a prayer?

There is a lot in that simple question, however. Because if it is, then to speak of offering "a sacrifice of prayer and praise" must include the offering the mass. Moreover, if we can offer a prayer for specific intentions, and in fact ask other's to offer this prayer for us, why can't we offer the Mass for special intentions and request priests to do this for us (with or without a stipend attached, which is in fact an offering for the support of the priest, not "paying" for the Mass).

It is related to the question of whether the "Verba Domini" in the liturgy are "proclamatory" or "precatory"--ie. are they preaching to the people, or are they included (as in all rites of the ancient Christian tradition) within a prayer.

For those Lutherans who still worry about these sorts of things and still have east-facing altars: do you consecrate the sacrament facing the altar or facing the people? Note that not even Luther turned the altars around or invented celebrating from a table or the "north-side".

And if we concede that the entire liturgy of the Mass is indeed a prayer, then is it not the greatest and most worthy prayer that we can offer: the prayer that is not only "in the name of Jesus" but Jesus himself?

Further there is no contradiction between being given a prayer and offering it. The Psalms are the word of God, given to us, but they were meant for us to use as a prayer back to God, and not simply for preaching. The Lord's Prayer is given to us by Christ himself. If you want to talk about "directionality", he "communicated" the prayer to us and we pray it back to the Father.

3 Comments:

At Tuesday, March 11, 2008 1:25:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is celebrating East such a block in the minds of the Australian clergy?

Surely, it could be done successfully and without complaint with even a little catechesis.

 
At Tuesday, March 11, 2008 5:11:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Quite. I refer to it here simply because in the majority of Lutheran parishes in Australia the altar is still against the "eastern" wall of the church, and the general practice of Australian Lutheran clergy is still to consecrate the Lord's Supper facing the altar, not the people. And yet at Luther Seminary we were repeatedly taught that the posture of the pastor was to be "towards the people" for sacramental acts and "towards the altar" for sacrificial elements of the liturgy.

This leads to the odd situation in those rites in which a confirmee, or ordinand or new member is required to kneel at the altar step while prayer is offered for them that the pastor "turns his back" on the kneeling candidate to pray for them.

But it has oddly not led Lutherans to question what is going on when they face the altar for the Eucharistic section of the liturgy.

I simply observe the fact.

 
At Tuesday, March 11, 2008 11:25:00 pm , Blogger William Weedon said...

David,

Lent has prevented me from visiting here as often as I like, and throwing in my $.02. But briefly: of course the Mass is a prayer. The Verba themselves may be understood as prayer, but I really think consecration is by itself a third thing - something that's not just prayer and not just proclamation. I wasn't taught at seminary that there was a right way or wrong way to face with regard to the altar. The very odd practice developed in Missouri circles, however, of the pastor picking up SOME of the elements and turning to face the people with them (if he had an east wall altar). Lutheran Service Book gives the very clear rubric that the pastor is to face the elements upon the altar as the consecration takes place, and hopefully that will help put an end to the other questionable practice. We once had a guest pastor who did this, and I members in doubt as to the consecration since the Words were not spoken over most of what was on the altar. Some more thoughts later, God willing. Hoping that your Lenten pilgrimage is proving a great blessing to you and your family.

 

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